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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall 2020 / Vol 43 No 4


52 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Jim Truesdell James Truesdell is President of Brauer Supply Company, a distributor of specialty fasteners, insulation, air filtration, and air conditioning with headquarters in St. Louis. Mr. Truesdell is adjunct professor at Saint Louis University and Webster University. An attorney and frequently published writer, he is the author of “Total Quality Management: Reports From the Front Lines”. REMOTE WORKERS - THE CUSTOMER’S PERSPECTIVE The pandemic is transforming great swaths of the workforce into “remote workers” who are handling their work responsibilities in their own homes. Gone are the” in office” banks of customer service people sitting side by side and handling customer orders, requests for quotes, complaints, requests for adjustments, shipping information, compliance with government forms, billing questions, product specifications and requesting technical assistance. This is the bread and butter of business--- and how well it is performed determines which enterprises will be successful and who will win the biggest share of the market. Much of what we are reading these days are glowing reviews of the new workplace and how well companies and workers are adapting to remote work. Workers are happy with the new found freedom and flexibility, and companies are looking at the prospect of lower overhead as offices can be closed or square footage of office places can be cut. What we do not hear is reports of how well customers are being served. At best, those companies who are claiming success are touting that they have maintained their service levels. But there is, I fear, an undercurrent not being reported of workers who are not following through on their tasks and of management taking a laissez faire attitude as the managers themselves are also a little too casual in their work habits with the built in excuse that “the demands of the current situation have increased wait times.” CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE If the remote working solution is so great, why are so many people complaining about long wait times (often ending in disconnects which force the customer to start the process all over again), lack of call backs, inability to find solutions and even the frustration of having no one at all to talk to until someone at the business chooses to call them back? How many customers will be lost to a competitor who has set up sufficient controls to ensure people are really working, or (bucking the conventional wisdom) who have their workers present in the office utilizing necessary protocols of masking, social distancing and the like while preserving their service-oriented cultures? Companies that are part of the supply chain for physical goods seem to doing better in keeping up their essential roles in our society. Other than the curious shortages of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, most of the shelves of retailers and wholesalers are filled with the goods needed to keep the wheels of civilization turning. Those warehouse workers, delivery drivers, point of sale clerks and maintenance people are out on the front lines wearing their masks and doing the job. It is oftentimes the support networks of intangible products where information and human contact are often not readily available. I have directly experienced and have heard many stories about people seeking information who call the relevant company only to find a recorded menu of phone extensions where a message can be left. CONTINUED ON PAGE 130


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